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Summit seeks to address firarms legislation

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The portfolio committee on police, along with different stakeholders in the firearms sector are gathering this week in Parliament to discuss potential amendments to the country’s current firearms legislation. This comes amidst an increase in both legal and illegal firearms in the public sphere, and the need for better regulations to govern the issuance of firearms and licenses.

The summit aims to develop an overall view of the current state of firearm legislation and policies, and determine the current challenges faced with regards to firearms issuance, with the hopes of bringing about amendments to address these issues.

With gang related shootings on the raise across the Cape Flats, the summit comes at a particularly opportune time, as questions remain on how best to curb firearms access amongst criminals.

“We need to make sure the current legislative framework is strengthened, and we must also ensure that the central firearms registry under the police has got the necessary leadership and requirements in place, to ensure that there is proper policing of firearms in South Africa,” stated portfolio committee chairperson, Francois Beukman.

The summit is being attended by over 150 different firearms stakeholders, from government to members of civil society. Police minister, Nkosinathi Nhleko, as well as Deputy Minister, Maggie Sotyu are expected to deliver addresses. They will be joined by the Gun Owners Association of South Africa, the Sport Shooting Association, and other committees with a vested interest in the firearms sector.

On Tuesday, Prof Sebastian van As of the Red Cross Children’s Hospital sought to highlight the effects of firearms abuse on the countries youth, noting that a total of 476 children were admitted to the hospital for bullet inflicted trauma in the last 20 years.

The portfolio committee on Police is expected to process the anticipated firearms amendment bill later in 2015. Upon its introduction in 2000, specific provisions were made to ensure all firearm license applications are subject to background and competency checks. The new amendments will seek to further strengthen these regulations.

“The aim is really to ensure that the new legislative framework will strengthen in terms of requirements, and also in terms of adherence to the regulations,” noted Beukman.

The public has until the end of March to comment on new legislative framework. The committee will also, once the bill has been tabled in parliament, have extensive public hearings to allow gun owners and stakeholders to give comment. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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